Back in February, following Justice Antonin Scali’s death, Senate Republicans led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement that they would not consider any nominee put forth by Obama, and that a Supreme Court nomination should be left to the next President.
President Obama responded that he intended to “fulfill my constitutional duty to appoint a judge to our highest court,” and that there was no “well established tradition” that a president could not fill a Supreme Court vacancy during the president’s last year in office.
Senator Orrin Hatch, president pro tempore of the United States Senate and the most-senior Republican Senator, predicted that President Obama would “name someone the [liberal Democratic base]wants” even though he “could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.” Five days later, Obama formally nominated Garland for Supreme Court Justice.
It has been five months and Republicans are sill holding back the nomination.
This week, the Supreme Court returns to work. The Justices will hear important cases on issues ranging from the separation of church and state to intellectual property to Congressional redistricting to the death penalty. Many of the cases address questions that are fundamental to our democracy: the right to vote, for instance, or what constitutes U.S. citizenship. Yet – regardless of the stakes – Republicans in Congress have forced the Court to weigh these pivotal issues one Justice short of the Court’s full panel of nine.
In a city of self-inflicted wounds, this one is more dangerous and less defensible than most.
It’s been 202 days since I nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. That’s more than five months longer than the average nominee has had to wait over the last 40 years to receive a hearing in Congress – let alone an up or down vote. This delay has nothing to do with Judge Garland’s personality or his qualifications. Senators on both sides of the aisle acknowledge that he is a distinguished legal mind, a dedicated public servant, and a good and decent man.
Republicans have long been resolved to defeat proposals I’ve put forward or supported on everything from equal pay, immigration reform and increasing the minimum wage, to expanding commonsense background checks for those who want to purchase a gun, and basic protections for American workers against discrimination based on who they love or how they identify.
Republican leaders in Congress have proven they won’t work with my Administration, but along the way, they’ve lost sight of their basic mission. They can’t even meet their own goals. Republicans say they care about good paying jobs, but they’re ignoring one of the best ways to create them by refusing to make long overdue investments rebuilding our roads, bridges, ports and airports. A major infrastructure push would put Americans back to work and make our businesses more competitive – but Congress can’t get it done. They can’t move the ball forward on tax reform, one of the GOP’s biggest priorities, and they continue to delay serious funding to combat an opioid epidemic that has devastated the lives of many of their constituents. They talk a great deal about poverty, but refuse to address it in a meaningful way.
On countless priorities – issues that matter to people across the country, regardless of their politics – Republicans in Washington have traded progress for partisanship.
We didn’t grow from a fledgling nation into the greatest force for good the world has ever known by flouting the institutions that define our democracy. We did it through fidelity to the values of our founding, and an understanding that our American experiment only works when we the people have a say. So do your part, and demand your representatives do theirs. That’s how we’ll carry forward the work of perfecting our Union.